Prince of Persia begins with the line “Long ago in a land far away”. Sound familiar? Sadly, a lack of originality isn’t the only thing plaguing the latest video game adaptation run through the ringers of Hollywood. The dialogue is stale and far too modernized (though the actors do give it their best), the overuse of slow motion nears a threshold of tangible pain, and the comedy relief intrudes upon both reason and sanity. Perhaps the most disruptive element of the film is its insistence on recreating the video game feel. The first-person blueprints of castles under siege, unrealistic action moves with accompanying CG effects, and obvious “boss fights” are just too much. Not to mention the location changes prefaced by titles like “Valley of the Slaves” and “Lair of the Hassansins”. Let’s hope there are no extra lives in the next level because “Game Over” can’t be too far away.
Adopted from the streets of Nasaf by King Sharaman of Persia, young Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) grows up amongst royalty and quickly earns his place as a mighty warrior and prince. As his brothers Garsiv (Toby Kebbell) and Tus (Richard Coyle) plan battle strategies, a spy sends word that the Holy City of Alamut has been supplying weapons to enemies of Persia. Taking matters into his own hands, Tus orders an attack on the sacred city and, upon its fall, Dastan encounters the beautiful Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton). When King Sharaman dies under mysterious circumstances shortly after, Dastan is accused of his murder and must flee with the princess on a harrowing mission to clear his name. Learning from Tamina the true motives behind Alamut’s invasion, Dastan must embark on a perilous quest to stop an evil mastermind’s plot for ultimate power with a mystical weapon that can control the very fabric of time.
Never has a film set in the deserts and dunes of ancient Asia felt less authentic. Is it inaccurate for characters from Persia to speak English, to be well versed in the martial arts form of parkour, or to use dialogue that includes words and phrases like “Press your luck,” “spoiled,” insidious,” “obscene,” “chat,” and “Thursday?” Gyllenhaal may be the least likely candidate to play the tough-as-nails, combat-ready Prince of Persia, but he does meet the good-natured boyishness degree that Disney requires. At least the costumes and sets spare no attention to detail.
As with many of these domesticated adventure films, the overdose of slow motion, dramatic pauses, striking of photo-worthy poses, and close-ups of determined eyes only hurts the level of coolness the movie so exhaustingly tries to achieve. The supernatural elements mixed with ridiculous stunts further suffocate the potential of the action sequences. As if the generic characters, Pagan madness and pointless battles weren’t silly enough, the film continues to make things up as it goes. The princess announces that she was required to memorize the path to the sacred temple, simply to create a new mission; she locates secret passages and hidden tunnels as a means to move from one stunt to the next; and through flashbacks and lengthy explanations about archaic myths (the gods, their promises, mystical powers and human sacrifices) the two heroes form extra conflicts to overcome. It plays out like a video game in the sense that new levels of obstacles are continually devised on the spot just for them to try and accomplish a task.
The only redeeming factor in Prince of Persia is Ben Kingsley, who seems to genuinely enjoy his terrible role, enthusiastically gobbling up any chance to keep acting regardless of how pitifully the character is written. Nizam is hilariously atrocious, but the pathetic part can’t hide Kingsley’s knack for these kinds of absurd representations.
– The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)